Curriculum Outline

We produce our effects (FX) within the powerful Side Effects Houdini FX, performing final look treatments and composites with the award winning NUKE X from The Foundry.

Scheduled classes provide technical knowledge required to master portfolio projects. Each week students are provided with lectures and demonstrations to learn key concepts and further assist with technical and artistic development. Weekly industry studies bring students together to view current media, breakdowns and up to date Effects techniques from real-world industry examples.

Every Monday classes gather for weekly screenings, supervised by a seasoned Senior FXTD and VFX Supervisor, where finished and work-in-progress projects are presented and discussed. Students complete assigned projects, working both individually and in groups. In the final term the FX students will work on industry calibre FX shots, demo reel finalisation, and a group project alongside compositing students to fully experience the dynamics of working on a VFX production as a team member.
Houdini Training: Certified by Side Effects

Houdini Training: Certified by Side Effects

We are proud to be one of few schools qualified under the Houdini Certified School Program.

Semester One

  • Orientation/Basics
  • Project relevant technique lectures
  • Industry Studies
  • Procedural Geometry Generation Project - This project focuses on geometry / 3D spatial modeling and system building. It is required first to develop necessary skills in proceduralism, as well as the look and feel of controlled variation and natural phenomenon. A strong FX focus is imparted in this project by means of a creating a procedural system to generate a natural phenomenon this contrasts a traditional approach in starting off hand-sculpting a still life.
  • Mantra Photo-realistic Shader Development Project - The focus on the second project is lighting, shading, and rendering. The power of rendering and surface detail is explored by using advanced shading methods to transform a simplistic geometry model into an articulate and photo-real render. An FX centric focus is imparted in this project by designing a procedural shader which entails patterns and variation in low level shading algorithms as opposed to the UV unwrap, paint-based approach. The resulting procedural texture is both FX applicable as it can be applied to a topology independent surface, as well as scalable at near and far distances due to it’s vector-based shading. It should also employ infinite variation as is common in FX workflows. Use of a professional renderer such as Mantra lighting is also a core foundation as well as photographing reference to get an instinctual sense of real-world color values.
  • Crowd Animation Project - The crowd animation project develops skills is many different areas of animation, specifically FX animation. The end result will produce a non-human crowd with basic character animation and particle motion. Traditional 3D animation techniques are taught alongside and integrated with FX animation techniques, tools, and methodologies. Basic character animation and rigging are addressed to the degree of mimicking a low fidelity non-human crowd delegate. Procedural motion and tool building is then addressed using procedural motion processing in channel operators, and crowd tools and character assets are constructed in the same way as FX/Crowd pipelines. Unique FX focus areas include particle and fuzzy logic to produce the overall crowd motion, as well as crowd variation in scale and shape. Crowd rendering is also addressed for proper motion blur and distance based level of detail.

Semester Two

  • Project relevant technique lectures
  • Industry Studies
  • Digital Destruction (Rigid body dynamics) - Destruction of man-made structures and objects is one of the cornerstone tasks of FX departments involved in feature film work. To demonstrate proper command of different building materials, weights, rigidity/flexibility, and to mimic structural integrity and degradation; this project focuses on a man-made structure for destruction. It should be destroyed using a catalyst and inspired by reference footage. This mimics shot-deployment in a feature film pipeline in which things happen for a purpose. The needs and timing of the animated catalyst should be taken to account.
  • Advanced Fluids Project - The fluids project entails the implementation of particle, volume, pyro, and liquid simulation applied and rendered according to a filmed shot. This project not only develops the core skills to work with fluid effects, but may also entails group work as multiple students contribute to populate the shot with multiple fluid elements. Project pipeline and screenings try to mimic a production scenario as this is the last and most difficult project in the curriculum and a springboard for junior and mid-level caliber production skills in the workplace. Fluids are the most advanced project due to the fact that the artist has the least amount of sculpt-ability and control, coupled with long simulation and render times. The elements also need to be rendered to the aims of photo realism therefore making rendering and lighting topology independent elements are a large component of the project. Students can have either difficult hero fluid elements or, multiple elements, and auxiliary elements. The element type depends on shot needs but could encompass water or other fluids, fire, sparks, dust, environmental effects such as fog, rain, or snow, and mild rigid body dynamics work.
  • Career Prep and Demo Reel Edit
  • Job Placement Assistance
  • Graduation

Program Media Selects

Instructional Delivery Methods

  • On-site delivery – supervised and unsupervised classroom and studio access
  • One-on-one mentoring with industry professionals
  • Project-Based Learning, a technique which enables the students to explore and grasp concepts and methods within a simulated production pipeline
  • Demonstrations/lectures
  • Individual and group projects
  • Extensive training library and online resources
  • Visiting artists and guest speakers

Students develop and enhance their skills in the following areas:


Understand the fundamentals of effects techniques for creating effects shots. Develop the ability to choose the most efficient and appropriate technique and tools to create the required FX in production. We encourage the students to develop their skills and research look development for FX work. The students will also develop more independent thinking skills and break away from common techniques to develop their own styles and more comfort approaching challenging situations in a movie effects pipeline.


Develop the ability to use specific production techniques relevant to industry-standard skill sets, including appropriate modeling surfaces, animating, lighting, rendering, rigid body dynamics, creating simulations for destruction, environmental effects and more. A working understanding in expressions, scripting and common math operations. Topics such as particle logic, digital asset creation, expressions, scripting, common math operations in geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, and concepts in procedural motion will be demonstrated and practiced.


Understand and participate in some pre-production and execution of live action plates for effects shots. Understand and participate in the visual effects production pipeline in a group setting.


Learn to navigate the unique creative industry culture through simulated production experience, mentor screenings/feedback, industry studies/tours, career preparation classes, and our studio etiquette certification course.

Supported by Side Effects Software, Houdini

Supported by Side Effects Software, HoudiniFX TD Program Lead, Andrew Lowell & Houdini CEO, Kim Davidson
Julie Lottering - Global Education & Training Manager
"It's totally inspirational to see you and your team in action, alongside the students and the quality of work they are producing. You have a knack for developing artistic judgement in your students which is what distinguishes them professionally and helps them make contributions to the industry.

After touring the classroom and viewing the student work it was hard to believe that they had only been working with Houdini from one month to less than a year-- the quality of their work is technically excellent while remaining uniquely expressive. It's very rare to come across a program where the level of all the students' work is of a Senior quality."